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Deniece Williams

Let's Hear It For The Boy

How Pilton Pop Festival became the iconic Glastonbury Festival we know today

Did you tune in to Glastonbury Festival 2022? Known for big acts, unique fashion and an unbeatable atmosphere, Glastonbury is like no other. If you didn’t make it this year, start planning for 2023 now!

Did you tune in to Glastonbury Festival 2022? Known for big acts, unique fashion and an unbeatable atmosphere, Glastonbury is like no other. If you didn’t make it this year, start planning for 2023 now!

But how did this worldwide festival come to be? Has it always been the centre of music and fashion or did it have humble beginnings?

We're delving into Glastonbury's humble start as Pilton Pop Festival and its journey to becoming one of the most popular events on the international calendar. Are you ready for a slice of music history?

What is Glastonbury Festival?

Before we jump into Glastonbury's varied history, we'll quickly give you a rundown of this enormous event.

With approximately 210,000 guests, an impressive 40-ton Pyramid Stage and even a dairy farm, this festival is like no other. Visitors can enjoy 30 different areas, over 100 stages and performers, and relieve themselves in a whopping 3,330 toilets.

As you can imagine, the process of building Glastonbury isn't easy. Events planners work all year round to bring the festival to Somerset every year. From recruiting staff to filling the lineup with star-studded acts, Glastonbury planners never have a moment to spare.

1970: back to the start

Let's rewind back to 1970. The first year Glastonbury Festival appeared was at the start of the 70s, the day after Jimi Hendrix passed away. But this was not a morbid event!

Initially held in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, the first year of Glasto only saw an attendance of 1,500. Also, it's important to note that this festival wasn't called Glastonbury yet; attendees signed up for the Pilton Pop Festival. The price to attend was a mere £1, including free milk from the dairy farm – a far cry from the £280 tickets available in 2022.

Notable acts in the event's first year included Al Stewart, Marc Bolan, Keith Christmas, Quintessence and Stackridge.

 

Introducing the Pyramid Stage

When you think of Glastonbury Festival, what comes to mind? For many, it's the iconic Pyramid Stage.

Though the Pyramid Stage appeared sporadically from the 1970s to 1981, it became the stage we know and love in the 1980s. In 1981, the Pyramid Stage became a permanent fixture on the farm, serving as a cattle shelter in the winter.

1981 was an important year for Glastonbury Festival, as this was the year that the festival's name changed from Pilton Pop Festival to the name we use now.

Creator Michael Eavis collaborated with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the 1980s, using the festival to promote the CND while bolstering funding. Glastonbury started to be associated with good causes and the Earth, a tradition that continues, with David Attenborough attending as a mystery guest last year.

Popular acts seen in the 1980s included The Smiths, Madness, Van Morrison and Elvis Costello.

 

Partying in the 90s

Glastonbury started to resemble the event we know today in the 1990s. In this decade, the event achieved legend status, and party-goers from across the UK made the annual journey to set their worries aside for a weekend of fun.

In 1994, The Levellers headlined the festival, drawing in a crowd of over 300,000 attendees – the largest crowd to date. Alongside record-breaking crowds, 1994 was the first year that Glastonbury Festival was broadcast on Channel 4, with coverage of two main stages.

 

The festival we know and love today

Throughout the 2000s, the Pyramid Stage received a makeover, creating the 100ft-tall stage you'll see today. The event also became a place to see and be seen, with paparazzi catching famous British celebs letting their hair down over the weekend.

Significant performances include David Bowie, Oasis, Arctic Monkeys, Beyoncé and Jay Z. Don't worry if you've missed these acts – we expect that there will be more to come as the festival continues to draw in music lovers from around the world.

This year, Glastonbury celebrated its belated 50th birthday. Top acts from 2022 included Billie Eilish, Paul McCartney, Kendrick Lamar and Diana Ross. Another successful year completed!

 

The bottom line

Glastonbury has come a long way since its start as Pilton Pop Festival, cementing its place as one of the best events in the world. Whether you're there for the music or the ambience, this event really should be on your 2023 calendar.

Will you be signing up for next year's festival?

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